My favorite holiday, Super Bowl Sunday, is behind us for another year. This year I hosted Super Bowl Party XIX, and while the game was a dog – especially for those of us that had Percy Harvin for MVP at 15-1 at an offshore, um, small business – the event itself couldn’t have been better. In honor of the game the NFL billed as “the first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl,” I held my first outdoor, cold-weather Super Bowl Party. If you drove down Marengo during the game on February 2, you may have noticed a group of fools dressed like a Christmas special about manatees visiting Santa’s workshop. We filled an insulated cooler with rum-spiked hot cider – cider-spiked hot rum, truth be told – projected the game on the side of the house, and watched Peyton Manning and the Broncos get eviscerated while we stood around a fire built from scavenged Christmas trees. Scavenged Christmas trees burn dramatically. There is a good chance the heat bloom from my backyard caused a few anxious moments for NORAD.
This outdoor event was partly driven by my desire to show nature a little respect, but respect undiluted by fear. It’s been tauntaun-ridin’ weather for a month or so now, and maybe I’m turning into the kind of hostage that starts to identify with his captors, but I’m starting to appreciate it. This is what winter is supposed to feel like. The last couple winters have felt like five months of unbroken fifty-degree-and-raining days. This winter feels like I should be looking into the purchase of a used sleigh and maybe Googling some seal recipes. It’s glorious. It’s what winter is supposed to be – deep snow that doesn’t turn into grey ice soup three hours later, icicles long and heavy enough to induce imaginings of an accidental death that makes the New York Times, and most importantly, it has been brass-monkey-emasculating cold. This isn’t a winter that makes me cranky because temperatures are consistently ten degrees below golfable weather. This is a winter that threatens to take off my toes when I take out the trash. Glorious. When I am old, I will tell tedious tales of the Polar Vortex of 2013 during our new 55-degree globally-warmed winters, and they will be FAR more annoying than a little snow.
Speaking of annoyances and holidays, my most favorite holiday is closely followed by one of my least. I learned to hate Valentine’s Day early on, having gone to school back before they either canceled Valentine distribution outright or required every student bring enough for everyone in the class. (I am presuming schools did one of these things about the time that the “Everyone Gets A Trophy” policy was enacted in Little Leagues.) I would show up with my stupid little paper punch-out World Wrestling Federation Valentines (“You’ve Put My Heart In A Steel Cage!”) and get maybe six back. It was like a sanctioned popularity contest with the hierarchy determined by Applause-O-Meter. At seven, I did not fare well in this contest.
Valentine’s Day does not improve with the introduction of girls. The first few V-Days are excruciatingly awkward, as you try to strike the correct balance of cool indifference and sweet thoughtfulness so crucial to success in the monkey house of adolescence. The indifference and thoughtfulness are on the outside, of course; at that age, Valentine’s Day on the inside is equal parts savage hormones and cold flop-sweat. Selecting a gift and card when you’re fourteen is like you’re defusing a bomb and there’s ten seconds left on the clock and the bomb is on a busful of orphans and if you fail the bomb goes off and then you will never, ever have sex ever in life and you will have to move to Missoula to escape the audible laughter of your peers and the few surviving orphans.
Odd how we all felt like this, and yet snipping the wrong wire showing up with a risible present for a freshman-year girlfriend was still something you had to pretend was no big thing. The thing is, all that terror, all that sinking sickening stomach-pit terror vanishes with practice. Once you become accustomed to buying something for someone special every February 14th, it becomes basically a pinker, lacier April 15th. You get that thing delivered in time, and it is out of your hands for another year.
(Unless your Valentine doesn’t like the Iron Sheik card. Then you can expect an investigation, an audit, and penalties.)